Valerica is the estranged wife of Lord Harkon, leader of the Volkihar Clan. They have a daughter named Serana, whom Valerica kept hidden in a tomb for centuries to protect her from her father. Lord Harkon plots to end the Tyranny of the Sun, but to do so he requires Auriel's Bow and Serana's blood for a ritual sacrifice.
She, along with Harkon and Serana, were once devout followers of Molag Bal. Tradition of their cult dictated that the females be offered to Molag Bal on his summoning day. Being selected as an offering was considered to be an honor that was not rejected lightly. Few survived the ordeal, and those who did emerged as pure-blooded vampires. Such confluences were known as the "Daughters of Coldharbour." As such, both Valerica and Serana underwent this horrific and degrading ritual.
Sometime before the events of Skyrim, Valerica fled her home of Castle Volkihar with two Elder Scrolls after Harkon became obsessed with the Tyranny of the Sun prophecy. She believed that vampires should stay in the shadows, otherwise it would bring too much attention and ultimately lead to their extinction. She locked Serana and one Elder Scroll in Dimhollow Crypt for her protection and escaped to the Soul Cairn with the other. Outraged by this betrayal, Lord Harkon immediately ordered everyone within his court to find her, but they unfortunately failed, and centuries later, he eventually gave up looking for her. He did, however, say that if she returns on her own, or if someone within his court finds her, she will have to answer for her actions.
When she entered the Soul Cairn, she intended to strike a bargain with the rulers of the realm, the Ideal Masters. She requested refuge, and in return, Valerica would provide them with the souls that they craved. The Ideal Masters had other plans, as they valued Valerica's soul much more. They sent their Keepers to kill her, however, she was able to retreat into a fortress and keep them at bay. This, however, turned into a stalemate as neither side had the upper hand. The Ideal Masters constructed a barrier around the fortress that could not be breached in order to contain Valerica and decided to wait. As the passage of time has little meaning in the Soul Cairn, the waiting game continued for thousands of years.
The Dragonborn may travel with Serana to the Soul Cairn to confront Valerica and obtain an Elder Scroll. She explains that the Elder Scrolls are merely a means to an end, and that Serana is the key to the Tyranny of the Sun prophecy. It's revealed that Serana's scroll tells of Auriel's Bow, and the scroll in Valerica's possession declares that "The Blood of Coldharbor's Daughter will blind the eye of the Dragon."
She offers her scroll to the Dragonborn if the Keepers, located at the tallest spires in the Soul Cairn, are defeated. She also warns that a fearsome Dragon named Durnehviir is roaming this plane and is charged with overseeing the Keepers.
Once Durnehviir is slain she will remark about how she thought she would never see the death of that dragon, but realizes that his physical form is just displaced.
Though Serana spent a lot of time with her mother before her exile, Serana comes to realize, in the Soul Cairn, that Valerica is as bad as her husband in the sense that she uses her daughter to further her plans.
After the Dragonborn kills Harkon, it is possible to travel back to the Soul Cairn and tell her Harkon is dead. She will return to her study about a day later. After Valerica returns to the castle, she will plant new herbs in the garden in the courtyard, provided Garan Marethi is asked to repair the corridor that leads there. The Corridor cannot be repaired if the Dragonborn sides with the Dawnguard.
The Dragonborn can ask her to make Bloodcursed Elven Arrows, but she replies that even though Harkon is dead, she wants to stay as far away as possible from completing the prophecy that Harkon envisioned.
"So how has it come to pass that a vampire of mixed blood is in the company of my daughter?"
I've been keeping her safe."Safe? You call bringing her here safe? Has she explained nothing to you?"
I've saved her from your foolish plan."I find your choice of words quite interesting considering that Serana is in far more danger now than she was following my "foolish plan.""
I'm just here for the Elder Scroll."Glorious. Serana claims you're her guardian, yet your first instinct appears to be greed. I see that my daughter is still as naive as ever."
"Serana has sacrificed everything to prevent Harkon from completing the prophecy. I would have expected her to explain that to you."
That's why I'm here for the Elder Scroll."You think I'd have the audacity to place my own daughter in that tomb for the protection of her Elder Scroll alone? The scrolls are merely a means to an end. The key to the Tyranny of the Sun is Serana herself."
What do you mean?"When I fled Castle Volkihar, I fled with two Elder Scrolls. The Scroll I presume you found with Serana speaks of Auriel and his arcane weapon, Auriel's Bow. The second scroll declares that "The Blood of Coldharbour's Daughter will blind the eye of the Dragon.""
How does Serana fit in?"Like myself, Serana was a human once. We were devout followers of Lord Molag Bal. Tradition dictates the females be offered to Molag Bal on his summoning day. Few survive the ordeal. Those that do emerge as a pure-blooded vampire. We call such confluences the "Daughters of Coldharbour.""
The Tyranny of the Sun requires Serana's blood?"Now you're beginning to see why I wanted to protect Serana, and why I've kept the other Elder Scroll as far from her as possible."
Are you saying Harkon means to kill her?"If Harkon obtained Auriel's Bow and Serana's blood was used to taint the weapon, the Tyranny of the Sun would be complete. In his eyes, she'd be dying for the good of all vampires."
I would never allow that to happen."And how exactly do you plan on completing the prophecy without the death of my daughter?"
I'll kill Harkon."If you believe that, then you're a bigger fool than I originally suspected. Don't you think I weighed that option before I enacted my plans?"
I'll need your help."Have you been listening to me? Like Serana, I'm a pure-blooded vampire. My presence on Tamriel is as much of a danger as hers."
Perhaps her death is destined."No! I will not allow that [sic] [Do not change this to that to. This misspelled word is how it appears in-game.] happen. The Elder Scrolls only tell of events that might be, not events that will be."
And Serana's opinion in this?"You care nothing for Serana or our plight. You see the Tyranny of the Sun as your chance at deification, and like Harkon you won't hesitate to destroy anything that stands in your path."
Serana believes me, why won't you?"Serana?"
Serana underwent this ritual willingly?"It was expected of her, just as it was expected of me. Being selected as an offering to Molag Bal is an honor. She wouldn't have dared turn her back on that."
Coldharbour?"It's what some call the domain of Molag Bal. His place in Oblivion."
After Valerica speaks with Serana again:
"Your intentions are still somewhat unclear to me. But for Serana's sake, I'll assist you in any way that I can."
Do you have the Elder Scroll with you?"Yes. I've kept it safely secured here ever since I was imprisoned. Fortunately, you're in a position to breach the barrier that surrounds these ruins."
What do we need to do?"You need to locate the tallest of the rocky spires that surround these ruins. At their bases, the barrier's energy is being drawn from unfortunate souls that have been exiled here. Destroy the Keepers that are tending them, and it should bring the barrier down."
We'll return soon."One more word of warning. There's a dragon that calls itself Durnehviir roaming the Cairn. Be wary of him. The Ideal Masters have charged him with overseeing the Keepers, and will undoubtedly intervene if you're perceived as a threat."
If I leave the Soul Cairn, can I safely return?"As you've been traveling in the Soul Cairn, your body has become attuned to it. Let's just say a tiny part of you rubbed off on it, and in its place, a bit of the Soul Cairn filled the void. You should find no difficulty using the portal any longer."
How did you become imprisoned here?"When I entered the Soul Cairn, I had intended to struck a bargain with the Ideal Masters, the custodians of this place."
What was the bargain?"I requested refuge in the Soul Cairn, and in exchange, I would provide the Ideal Masters the souls that they craved. If I had foreseen the value they placed on my own soul, I would never have come here."
They tricked you."The Ideal Masters unleashed their Keepers and sent them to destroy me. Fortunately, I was able to hold them at bay and retreat into these ruins."
You became trapped."Unfortunately, yes. Since the Keepers weren't able to claim my soul, they had their minions construct a barrier that I'd never be able to breach."
You've been imprisoned here for all this time?"Time has very little meaning to me. Consequently, it has little meaning to the Ideal Masters as well. I suppose you could call this the ultimate waiting game, each watching the other to see which will give in."
Who are the Ideal Masters?"I know very little about them. They're mystic entities that lord over the Soul Cairn, controlling every aspect from its fabric to its appearance."
What do they resemble?"Well, some necromancers believe they are the crystalline structures dotting the Soul Cairn. I believe there's more to it than that."
How so?"I think they transcend what we perceive as a physical form. Perhaps they were once corporeal beings, but they've obviously reached a point where they no longer require a tangible presence."
And the crystals?"Conduits through which the Ideal Masters speak to their underlings and feed on their victims."
Why would they require sustenance?"The Ideal Master's weakness is their insatiable hunger for pure souls. It's the reason for the Soul Cairn's existence, and the only leverage a necromancer has when bargaining with them."
What do the Masters provide in return?"The ability to summon powerful undead guardians as one would conjure an atronach or daedra. However, the majority of necromancers that are foolish enough to enter into bargain with the Ideal Masters wind up here... as harvested souls."
Why haven't you pursued the prophecy?"Harkon's vision is a world plunged in eternal darkness where the vampire can flourish and never again fear the "tyranny of the sun." What he fails to realize is how much attention would be called to our kind if the prophecy came to fruition."
What sort of attention?"If eternal night fell, there are many who wouldn't stand for it. They would raise armies in attempts to return things to normal. The order of the day would be our destruction until every last vampire was hunted down and eliminated."
So you prefer living in the shadows."I do. It's how the vampire has survived for millennia, and the only way we can continue to survive in the future."
"Be careful, and keep my daughter safe."
After destroying the Keepers:
"You managed to destroy all three Keepers? Very impressive."
Are you able to give us the scroll now?"Yes. Please, follow me. Keep watch for Durnehviir. With the prison's barrier down, he's almost certain to investigate."
"Follow me and stay close. Keep your eyes open for Durnehviir."
"Forgive my astonishment, but I never thought I'd witness the death of that dragon."
What makes you say that?"Volumes written on Durnehviir allege that he can't be slain by normal means. It appears they were mistaken. Unless..."
Go on."The soul of a dragon is as resilient as its owner's scaly hide. It's possible that your killing blow has merely displaced Durnehviir's physical form while he reconstitutes himself."
How long will that take?"Minutes? Hours? Years? I can't even begin to guess. I suggest we don't wait around to find out. Now, let's get you the Elder Scroll and you can be on your way."
If approached again:
"What did you want?" "The Elder Scroll is just ahead."
Upon retrieving the scroll:
"Now that you've retrieved the Elder Scroll, you should be on your way."
You're staying here?"I have no choice. As I told you before, I'm a Daughter of Coldharbour. If I return to Tamriel, that increases Harkon's likelihood of bringing the Tyranny of the Sun to fruition."
We'll return when we can."I appreciate your concern for me, but Serana is all that I care about. You must keep her safe at all cost."
We could use your help in Tamriel."As much as it pains me to send you and Serana back alone, I can't take the risk."
We may never return."After what I've put Serana through, I would understand if she never wished to see me again. I leave that decision in your hands."
"Remember that Harkon isn't to be trusted. No matter what he promises, he'll deceive you in order to get what he wants. And promise me you'll keep my daughter safe. She's the only thing of value I have left."
"Take the scroll, then be on your way."
If approached again:
"Did you have anything to ask before you depart?"
Why don't you come back with us?"Even if I could, it would only serve to hinder your efforts. Harkon would likely sense my return to Tamriel. The last thing you need right now is a trail for him to follow."
You said "even if I could." Why?"Like Serana, I am a Daughter of Coldharbour, an vampire offspring of Molag Bal. My presence on Tamriel would simply double the risk that Harkon could complete the prophecy."
And if Harkon failed?"The only way I'd even consider returning to Tamriel was if Harkon were not only to fail, but to be destroyed."
You hate him that much?"You must understand he's no longer the man I married all that time ago. He's obsessed... insane. Everyone around him fears him as they would a rabid dog. For all of this to end, he must die."
"Farewell. Remember that Harkon's not to be trusted."
Outside the prison:
I could use help with the crystals around here."Absolutely. I've spent a great deal of time perfecting an extract that increases the potency of soul husks. If you wanted to bring some to me, I'd be happy to provide you with some of the extract. It should help resist the draining aura of the crystals."
How many do you need?"Hmmm, I'd say five of them would be enough."
After retrieving the husks:
I have five soul husks here."Okay. Hope this helps. (Or "All right. Here's the extract.")"
"You appear to have something on your mind. What is it?"
Harkon is dead."What? Are you certain?"
He died by my hand."Then I see nothing preventing my return to Tamriel. Allow me to gather some of my things and I'll head back to Castle Volkihar. And from the bottom of my heart, I thank you."
If approached again:
"I'll return to Castle Volkihar as soon as I'm finished gathering my things."
Inside the castle:
"It might take decades to restore the castle to its former glory... but I appear to have plenty of time." "Help yourself to anything you need in my laboratory."
What will you do now?"Well, I think it's time I got back to my work as an alchemist. The Soul Cairn will offer a unique opportunity to continue my studies, and I intend to complete my research. In the meantime, if there are any potions you might need, feel free to help yourself."
Can you give me Bloodcursed Arrows?"I'm sorry, I don't feel comfortable giving them to you. I understand what you did for Serana and for me, but the prophecy never sat well with me, and I don't want to be a part of it. I'm sorry."
Serana: "Mother? Mother!" Valerica: "Maker... it can't be. Serana?" Serana: "Is it really you? I can't believe it! How do we get inside? We have to talk." Valerica: "Serana? What are you doing here? Where's your father?" Serana: "He doesn't know we're here. I don't have time to explain." Valerica: "I must have failed. Harkon's found a way to decipher the prophecy, hasn't he." Serana: "No, you've got it all wrong. We're here to complete the prophecy our way, not his." Valerica: "Wait a moment... you've brought a stranger here? Have you lost your mind?" Serana: "No, you don't..." Valerica: "You. Come forward. I would speak with you."
[After talking with Valerica] Valerica: "This stranger may call himself vampire, but he knoes nothing of our struggle, Why should I entrust you to him?" Serana: "This "stranger" has done more for me in the brief time I've known him than you've done in centuries!" Valerica: "How dare you! I gave up everything I cared about to protect you from that fanatic you call a father!" Serana: "Yes, he's a fanatic... he's changed. But he's still my father. Why can't you understand how that makes me feel?" Valerica: "Oh, Serana. If you'd only open your eyes. The moment your father discovers your role in the prophecy, that he needs your blood, you'd be in terrible danger." Serana: "So to protect me you decided to shut me away from everything I cared about? You never asked me if hiding me in that tomb was the best course of action, you just expected me to follow you blindly. Both of you were obsessed with your own paths. Your motivations might have been different, but in the end, I'm still just a pawn to you, too. I want us to be a family again. But I don't know if we can ever have that. Maybe we don't deserve that kind of happiness. Maybe it isn't for us. But we have to stop him. Before he goes too far. And to do that, we need the Elder Scroll." Valerica: "I'm sorry, Serana. I didn't know... I didn't see. I've allowed my hatred of your father to enstrange us for too long. Forgive me. If you want the Elder Scroll, it's yours."